Work on the Ponds-Part 2


Before. The overgrown pond before the cutting back.

The fourth pond that I have is only around 1500 gallons and is only two feet deep. This shallow depth is a problem for both regulating the water temperature and keeping the fish safe from the predatory Heron that comes sneaking around occasionally.

After the episodes with this beautiful bird way back in the early part of the year, I finally resolved the issue with the use of a Scarecrow. This gadget has an electric eye that activates it to spray water very noisily resulting in scaring the Heron away. Of course, the Scarecrow is not selective and sprays anything in range that activates it, including me and the dogs. The other problem is that any vegetation that blows in the wind in range of the electric eye, also sets it off. The two that I had installed and activated back earlier in the year added $25.00 a month to my water bill due to their indiscriminate actions. With the water color on the 3000 gallon pond so cloudy, see the earlier blog, I had shut down that Scarecrow and as the vegetation grew in the 1500 gallon pond, shut down that Scarecrow also.

In this case, the vegetation, mainly made up of green and black Taro and Iris had taken over the pond and it was almost impossible to see the water. It was fine when the Taro, which are both fast growing and very tall stood upright but as is often the case with tall plants, as they age they begin to droop and before long, the surface of the pond was just a mass of stalks and leaves. This did help to keep the water cooler and hide the fish from the Heron but was taking oxygen from the water at an alarming rate. Coupled with the tell tale signs of methane and ammonia gasses bubbling to the surface and the loss of five 12 inch Koi and two Goldfish convinced me that I needed to do something and do it fast.

The completed and cleaned pond taken from the same spot as the picture of “Before”.

I opted to change into a pair of my old soccer shorts and put on a pair of water shoes that I use in the ponds. I had kicked around the idea of putting on my waders because of the possibility of meeting the Brown Snake but decided against it as it would have been way too hot and uncomfortable. I was also relying the the common sense of the snake to get out of the pond knowing there was a human in it. As it happened, the snake spent his time in his usual spot on the wall between the two ponds sunning himself not more than 5 feet from me at times. It is not a poisonous snake but all snakes will bite when cornered.

It was slow and steady work as I cut back plant after plant. Some I was able to pull up by the roots which was a good thing as I would not have to deal with them again. Others, I just cut back knowing that they would probably regrow and I would have to do this down the road.

Picture taken from the opposite side of the pond after the cleaning.

After finishing with this part of the job, I had the task of removing the dead material from the bottom of the pond which was much less that I initially figured. Even though I have a Pond-o-Vac vacuum cleaner built especially for ponds, it is usually quicker to get in and physically remove the dead muck and debris using a net. After completing all of the heavy work, I cleaned the skimmer and the filters and checked the pump which is working just fine. I then reactivated another Skippy Filter to help clean the water and finally ended by turning on one of the oxygenators. Now all we have to do is wait for the water to clear.

The next day I worked on cleaning up all of the material that I had cut back and cleared out of the pond and there was a lot of it. I have found that it is easier to use a pitchfork that I happen to own that I know for a fact is almost 100 years old having belonged to Clark, my Stepfather’s brother at the old farm back in New York State. It still works well and is ideal for picking up the long stalks of the Taro. I don’t know how many trips I made to the compost pile but it was a lot. I was a lot cooler the day before when I was working in the pond itself but cleaning up the mess was very hot work in the 90 plus degree weather.

I finally finished the work at least for a while. Things won’t grow as fast during the really hot weather and it won’t be long before it is Fall, only another month. As with the small pond, I had to reactivate another one of the scarecrows with the vegetation out of the way, the few remaining fish that are still alive, are possible food for the ever present threat of the Heron.

This pond is the next on the list to permanently close down in the next year or so mainly because of the shallow depth. I am getting old whether I like it or not and need to start thinking of the future which eventually includes selling this house and moving elsewhere, probably in an assisted living complex. I know that I cannot keep working on things as I presently do and must plan accordingly. It’s hell growing old…

Written 8/5/2019

Work On The Ponds-Part 1


The 3000 gallon pond showing the newly installed unit on the far side.

Those of you that regularly follow my blogs are aware that I have four ponds ranging in size by gallons of 6000, 5000, 3000 and 1500. The two large ponds are pretty much established both mechanically in the equipment that is hooked up to keep the water clear and also in skimmers and waterfalls. Both have Aquadyne Filtering systems which are top of the line when it comes to this type of equipment.

The 3000 gallon pond was the last one that I “remodelled” making it deeper by raising the exterior walls by 3 feet or so above ground. Incidentally, the rocky ground in my part of Texas is only a foot or so below the ground level hence the need to go upwards. The water depth is a little over 4-1/2 feet. This is the home to a lot of goldfish probably a hundred or more who have the run of the pond. They do share it with a turtle and a very large 4 feet long Brown Snake that uses this pond as his very own smorgasbord although as far as I can tell, is not making any dent in the number of goldfish that the pond contains. I often see him resting up and sunning himself on the wall dividing the two ponds usually after having caught a meal. All a part of nature. This is also the pond that the Heron busied himself with at the start of the year although I haven’t seen it in several months. This could be due to the fact that the water in this pond with the current filtering system is pretty dirty, hence this blog.

The Savio Unit

The problem originally started when a hose failed overnight resulting in the loss of a couple of thousand gallons of water, which lowered the level of the pond considerably. All I could see was a mass of goldfish of all shapes, colors and sizes in what remained of the water in the bottom of the pond which was less than a foot deep. I was in immediate trouble to keep enough oxygen in what little water remained in order for the fish to survive and rushed to pull a couple of oxygenators from the other ponds which I knew would be good for a few hours overnight. Placing them in the water immediately stirred up the residue of dirt, leaves and fish droppings turning the water into a not so lovely shade of brown. At least it had oxygen for the fish to breathe. At the same time, I had turned on the system that I use to keep the ponds topped up so that fresh clean water was getting added. As that increased in volume I had to contend with the chlorine in the City tap water and was adding dechlorinator as the pond filled. It took several hours and finally we had the pond water level to where it belonged. The problem now was the quality of the water which was a dirty muddy brown color. The oxygenators did not help as they constantly kept the water stirred up not giving the residue a chance to settle but I had no choice with them. They had to stay in there at least for a couple of days to bring the oxygen levels back up.

Two days later, I took a chance even with the dirty water and removed the oxygenators and returned them to their ponds and installed a smaller and less powerful one. I was hoping that the pond filtering system that was already installed would, over time, take care of the problem of the dirty water and by the number of times a day that I had to clean the filters, it is working. With the big oxygenators off, the water also had the chance for the sediment to settle. However, it was way too slow and after a week, the water was still pretty dirty. I did not lose any fish except one that had jumped out of the pond overnight probably to escape the attentions of the Brown Snake and I found it the next day.

A different view. I could not find any other place to install it and have no way of hiding it from view so I chose water quality over aesthetics.

I had in my possession from one of the Fish Rescues that I had been on, a Savio Filtering System which consists of a large 60 gallon barrel that contains filtering material and a couple of different type filters that sit on the top. Quite a simple system really and I have six others around on the other ponds that I have built. We call them Skippy Filters and they do exactly the same thing as the commercialized model does. Three of mine are in 20 gallon containers and the other three are in 100 gallon tubs. I spent some time hooking up this system using an existing pump that had come with the unit when I acquired it. It was pumping too strong and I had to make some modifications by adding a valve to check back the flow otherwise more water was coming in than was getting pushed out. Needless to say, the pump lasted overnight and quit so I had to buy a new one adding to my frustration. I bought a less powerful pump requiring more work on the piping but do not have to regulate the flow of water with the valve. Good job I am handy with tools and know how and after 30 years of since I built the first pond, one would hope to have learned something.

The system works fine and although it has only been installed a couple of days, the water is starting to clear up and I have already had to wash the filters in the unit. I had to reinstall the Scarecrow just in case the Heron decides to pay a visit as with the water much clearer, the fish are visible to him (or her).

For Part 2, read about where I turn my attention to the smallest pond (in volume) to clean it up.

Written 8/5/2019

APS August Meeting 2019


Getting ready for the meeting.

The third Monday of the month saw us once again at Zilker Botanical Gardens Clubhouse for our usual Austin Pond Society Meeting. This was attended by exactly 40 members a couple of whom were brand new. Welcome to you from this friendly group of “Ponders”.

As usual, the first thing we did at 6:30 pm was to feed the inner man (or woman). Barb, our President had stopped by HEB to pick up ham sandwiches and the members brought in the side dishes and deserts. Someone, had brought in a bowl of curried rice with hard boiled eggs and it was delicious adding some spice to the otherwise dour and uninteresting taste of the ham sandwiches, at least in my mind. Of all of the things that we sample, those sandwiches are far back on my list of favorite foods. Just my 5 cents worth…

Click on a picture to enlarge it and then use the side arrows to move to the next.

The meeting started at 7:00 pm with Barb going round the room and the new members were given the opportunity to be introduced and say hello and a little bit about themselves. It is always fun to hear why they are interested in ponds and ponding.

There was quite a bit of business which included the upcoming elections of Officers. Barb mentioned that there are a few vacancies including Hospitality, Librarian and Pond Tour Director that need to be filled for next years Board plus the Board Selection Committee that is headed by Margaret Boeneke, (Membership) is needing two additional members. Officially, all positions are open but generally speaking, the members are content with the current Board Members and do not replace them if they plan on continuing in their positions. All of the positions are important but by far and away, one of the most important of all is the Pond Tour Director without whom, there is not a Tour. As with most organizations of this kind, we have trouble finding volunteers to act on the different committees and even on the Board itself.

On a separate note, Julienne Smith, our longtime Secretary of 8 years, announced that she is not going to run again and will join the members as one of them. We thank Julie for her long service and due diligence in keeping us all in order. She will be missed on the Board. Add that position to those that are open.

Ted Paone receiving his award as the Koi Person of the Year with Glen Hubenthal and Barb Lenhardt, President.

Other business included the presentation of the Koi Person of the Year Award to Ted Paone for his contributions as Director on the past two Pond Tours. Later in the evening, Ted gave a quick outline of drip watering which he has in his yard.

Video by Sam and BJ Jenkins

The highlight of the evening was a presentation by BJ and Sam Jenkins entitled Ponds 101. It was a video that Sam had put together of them building the two ponds and bog at their home in Bastrop. Sam narrated the video and it was set to music and was very nicely done lasting about 20 minutes or so, Following the video, BJ took over answering the questions put to them by the membership. All in all, a very successful presentation.

Business Section Video

The meeting ended with the usual drawing for the door prizes and announcements of upcoming events. including the Photo Contest which is scheduled for the next meeting, September 16 along with a scaled down version of the Swap and Sell Meet. There are also a couple of Members Only events on the Calendar. Check the website and the Stream for further details.

If you are interested in joining the Austin Pond Society, visit the website at https://austinpondsociety.org for more details. If you want to become a Board Member, contact Barb, the President at president@austinpondsociety.org

Hope to see you at any and all of these events.

Written 8/21/2019

My One Thousandth Blog


Nature’s beauty. The Yaupon trail at McKinney Roughs LCRA Park.

This is my one thousandth blog that I have written and posted on this site. I never thought when I started blogging all of those years ago and posted my first blog on July 12, 2011 that I would maintain the interest and continue on. But I have done and am still excited even today when I finish a particularly good piece or poem and have good quality pictures to go along with it.

Things are a little different now than it was eight years ago. Then, I thought that I would write short stories and post them for all to see until I figured out just how much work that was. I soon found out that I was not a writer as I don’t have a devious enough mind to come up with all of those plots and situations. Instead, I let Nature be the plot as she provides me with countless means of expression through her beauty. I added photography to my repertoire and have got to be pretty good at it. So, nowadays, I take pictures as I go on long hikes and then I write about what I have seen and show the photos that I took. Incidentally, I always do post camera work on all of my pictures to bring out the colors and shades that I did not capture with the original picture and in the last couple of years have got a lot of pleasure out of putting together videos of the pictures by turning them into slideshows, usually to music.

I discovered early on that I can write verse albeit a bit corny sometimes. If the words rhyme then that is good enough for me even if the words don’t make too much sense. I love writing poetry and I really feel my creative side coming out when I put down the words.

I write for myself and publish it for others to share if they are so inclined to read it. Early on, I wanted everyone to “like” what I wrote until I discovered that I had to “like” them back. I soon tired of that game and nowadays only add a “like” if in fact I really do. Otherwise, a quick glance to see if the other blog is interesting and then move on although I do have a few fellow bloggers that I follow and “like” on a consistent basis and it still takes me an hour or more going through the blogs every morning.

I did manage to write an entire autobiography about my life growing up in England all the way from being a little kid during the second World War to the trip from England to America and it sits on a thumbdrive gathering dust. There is a second part waiting to be written, My Life in America, but if I ever will actually write it, remains to be seen. Maybe when I can’t hike anymore. It’s a sure thing that I am not going to get rich from writing or photography.

So why do we do it? What compels us to spend time and effort writing about our interests and then publishing it so that others may read about it? Why are we so arrogant to believe that others may be in the slightest bit interested in any of our work. I have no answer for that and can only put it down to the folly of human nature which is why some people are writers and authors and other are carpenters and bricklayers, which incidentally I was for many years of my life.

When I can no longer hike or when the ponds get to be too much work, what will I write about then? If I don’t live it, I do not have a story. Like I said at the beginning, I am a reporter not a writer and probably by then, my brain will be defunct of any creative virtues.

Here’s hoping for another thousand blogs and all the years that go along with it…

Written 6/26/2019

Austin Pond Society June 2019 Meeting


Some of members that were present

This meeting was dedicated to a review of the recent Pond Tour held on June 1-2, 2019 where some of the owners that came to the meeting were presented with a plaque comprising of a picture of their pond that they had on display. Not all of the owners were available but those that were, graciously discussed their impressions that they had of the Tour with their ideas and recommendations for the future tours.

They and the other Members were treated to a quick meal of Chile and Chips plus the members brought in lots of desserts and salads to complement the meal. Following this brief repast, Barb Lenhardt, our President got the ball rolling as she had the Owners introduce themselves along with a new Member. She was followed by Ted Paone, this years Pond Tour Director who discussed the many aspects that it took to put on a tour of this size. He took the time to thank all of the many Volunteers and Committee Members without whom, none of this would have been possible and the Members gave him a big round of applause for all of his efforts. He did mention that in order to stay a happily married man, this was his very last time as Director and we thanked him for his efforts along with those of the many Committee Members and Volunteers that helped to make this a big success. So, if anyone out there wants to volunteer as next years Pond Tour Director, please contact our President at president@austinpondsociety.org

Barb’s Intro to the Pond Tour Meeting

He then led everyone through the slide show that Glen had put together with each owner that was present taking the opportunity to lead us through the various aspects of their particular set up whether it was a pond or a stream or a combination of both.

I started to film these interactions but quickly realized that I could not film the screen and the person who was talking both at the same time and gave up on the idea. Glen sent me a copy of his slideshow for me to post. I did a little work on editing and added music. Enjoy

The Austin Pond Society annual Pond Tour 2019. Pictures are by Glen Hubenthal with additional video work by Francis

With the end of the discussions, the evening came to a close.

The next meeting will be held on July 15th at the same place, Zilker Botanical Gardens and the subject matter will be “Building Your Own Pond”. Hope to see you there.

Written 6/18/2019

Texas Heat


In need of rain…

I went outside to work today
but it was so darn hot that I could not stay
and had to stop the task in hand
and it messed up all of my plans
of things that I wanted to do
which means that I will have to start anew
but it is not going to cool down
as this is Texas and it is renowned
for the heat of the summers always so hot
making the body perspire a lot
when the temperature reaches a hundred degrees
and too much of it makes you weak at the knees
we know it will happen the same every year
the summers are hot and the skies are all clear
and the ground dries up and the plants need the rain
and then the clouds will form and sometimes sustain
long enough to bring a shower or two
to cool things off just to do it anew
it is no good thinking that the following day
will be any different as this is the way
of the summers in Texas for thousands of years
have always been hot as the sun domineers
so tomorrow instead I will get up at dawn
and get out early to mow the lawn
and do the things that I need to do
and grow with the heat as I start anew
of one thing you can be very sure
the Texas heat is hard to endure
whether you care and like it or not
the Texas summers are bloody hot.

Written 6/27/2019


Herbert the Turtle


This is Herbert the Turtle

I received a phone call today
from a lady who was wanting to give away
her turtle that had been her friend
for many long years until in the end
that although much love he received
it was not fair she believed
that the only thing in his life
was a large glass tank and without a mate
or even another turtle to spend time
which would have made life much more sublime
instead just him in his lonely life
a perfect home for him with no strife
a peaceful life to be sure
but lonely with no company to endure
and for twelve and a half years he lived in his tank
when his caregiver called looking for a place
that he could spend the rest of his days
as nature intended in natural ways
in a pond that he could swim and be free
with other turtles for company
she brought him over to take a look
as I showed her around like an open book
and even though it would be the very last game
that she and Herbert for that was his name
would spend together for in his new life
Herbert could go and search for a wife
she kissed his head and said so long
and placed him on the bank of the pond
where he slipped into the water and was gone
but before he disappeared away
he turned and looked as if to say
thank you for the years that you cared
and of the life that together we shared
then slipped below the surface of the pond
to explore his new home and he was gone
I’m sure that Herbert and I will become friends
although it has to be said that in the end
I will not see Herbert an awful lot
as with the others will be hard to spot
unless he may bask in the sun
on the bank of the pond where this new life begun
and if Herbert was able to speak
I’m sure his thanks to Alisa would be deep
especially as she gave up her pet
for the wild life of a turtle he will now get.

Herbert in his tank

Written 6/11/2019